Mahatma Gandhi rightfully said “Live like you are going to live for a day, learn like you are going to live forever”.
Every day life gives you many moments to learn, but there are very rare times that life demands from you to deliver, to teach. It’s in these moments that you truly live for yourself and more importantly for the mankind. It’s these moments that define your very existence in this world and which make you immortal albeit even if it’s in one man’s heart.
When a person is involved in the noble act of imparting knowledge to others, his own knowledge gets augmented in the process. His understanding of knowledge becomes extensive with every stage of providing education. Thus teaching when its is called as a way of paying forward has the hidden idea of receiving backwards.
The role of a teacher is quickly becoming an expansive one. Today anyone who can or will impart any kind of skill set can be called a teacher. The corporate world has known to react to this aspect in a highly sensitized manner. They are aware that if an organization requires learned employees it also needs well endowed teachers. And what better than to facilitate an employee operate as both.
An organization, big or small thrives on its continuous learning cycles. The fast changing trends of the industry has made the corporate realize that an evolving workforce contributes to agility and thereby sustained success.
“You’re only as strong as your weakest link”
An organization’s success is a direct result of their employee’s efficiency. And we know this that an employee’s efficiency is an offshoot of his core competencies. These core competencies are not always his education or innate skills sets. They are more often than never, knowledge gained through experience and more importantly training.
Thus in an organization maintaining a healthy learning cycle is of prime importance.
Senge said that “a learning organization is a group of people working together
collectively to enhance their capacities to create results they really care
about”. In his book “Fifth Discipline” he has very eloquently explained that
the five pillars of a learning organization are Systems thinking, Personal
mastery, Mental Models, Shared Vision, Team Learning.
To help understand these five pillars better, let us go through a story (a real one!):
Way back in college third year of my engineering, I decided to start a youth magazine. My passion for writing had taken me to places, where I realized that market today doesn't cater much to the youth in print media. So I decided to capitulate on this opportunity.
The first thing I had to decide upon was to build a team.
I had a set of friends, whom I knew I had to employ, so basically I didn’t have the liberty of choosing a team I had a team already.
To make them effective, I had to build a team into them. I had to understand their inter personnel relationships and help them improve the same. In this process of improving linkages of my team, I was improving the team’s effectiveness. This is called “System thinking”. How did I do it? I tagged two people at a time on a single task. And for one whole week I changed combinations. So ultimately all of them had a working relationship to begin with.
Some wrote beautiful words but couldn't do much more than that. And then there were those who couldn't string a phrase together, but knew how fast to generate the moolah for us. Identifying people’s competencies was quick. But a holistic understanding was required for success. Once in every week, we would have learning and sharing lessons where everyone taught something and learnt a lot in return. This is what we call “personal mastery”.
We fast improved in all aspects. And our readership began to touch 10000s (which was a big deal for us!). Our team grew, our processes same. But suddenly we felt we were not as effective. So we realized we need to indentify centralized goals for the entire team. Like what market segment, what sales target and what percentage of feedback return from readers. Thus we together decided upon a framework for us as a group and decided to implement it through discussions and evaluations. This is called “Mental modes”.
But then once these goals and framework were decided, people in the team often found themselves clueless as to what their contribution was in terms of the same. Thus began a process of alignment of personal goals with the whole holistic approach of the group. For example, if we had to double our readership in two years, every sales team member needed to set a target of 5000 a month for themselves. This is what
Peter means by “Shared Vision”.
Once the aspect of aligned goals became clear to people, conflicts began. Why? A team’s collective goals trickled down to generate people’s personal goals. But in most situations these derived goals were either too high or too different in nature to achieve. Thus began the last aspect. A common group dialogue to decide upon an integrated goal which generated personal goals agreeable to all. This required a lot of discussion and understanding in the group itself. This is known as “Team learning”.
The magazine went on to achieve certain milestones but eventually ceased to print and circulate. But what we learnt as a group is what remains with us even now.